Insights on the Functions and Ecophysiological Relevance of the Diverse Carbonic Anhydrases in Microalgae

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Apr 22;21(8):2922. doi: 10.3390/ijms21082922.


Carbonic anhydrases (CAs) exist in all kingdoms of life. They are metalloenzymes, often containing zinc, that catalyze the interconversion of bicarbonate and carbon dioxide-a ubiquitous reaction involved in a variety of cellular processes. So far, eight classes of apparently evolutionary unrelated CAs that are present in a large diversity of living organisms have been described. In this review, we focus on the diversity of CAs and their roles in photosynthetic microalgae. We describe their essential role in carbon dioxide-concentrating mechanisms and photosynthesis, their regulation, as well as their less studied roles in non-photosynthetic processes. We also discuss the presence in some microalgae, especially diatoms, of cambialistic CAs (i.e., CAs that can replace Zn by Co, Cd, or Fe) and, more recently, a CA that uses Mn as a metal cofactor, with potential ecological relevance in aquatic environments where trace metal concentrations are low. There has been a recent explosion of knowledge about this well-known enzyme with exciting future opportunities to answer outstanding questions using a range of different approaches.

Keywords: CO2-concentrating mechanisms; carbon dioxide; carbonic anhydrase; microalgae.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution
  • Carbon Dioxide / metabolism*
  • Carbonic Anhydrases / genetics
  • Carbonic Anhydrases / metabolism*
  • Diatoms / metabolism
  • Environment
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Metals / metabolism
  • Microalgae / genetics
  • Microalgae / metabolism*
  • Photosynthesis*
  • Species Specificity


  • Metals
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Carbonic Anhydrases